Endeavour Shuttle’s Final Trip to L.A. Museum Forces Removal of 400 Trees

Los Angeles residents were thrilled when the California Science Center won its bid to display one of NASA's five retired space shuttles. But now many wonder if there isn't a better way to get it there.

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Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel / MCT via Getty Images

The space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, sits on the runway after landing safely on its final mission on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour made 25 trips into orbit and logged more than 122 million miles in space; but its final, 12-mile journey through the streets of Los Angeles is causing as much controversy as any of its NASA missions.

Five stories tall and 78 feet wide, Endeavour needs more than an “oversized load” banner hanging off the back of its trailer to make the trek from Los Angeles International Airport to its permanent home on display at the California Science Center. To widen the route, crews plan to cut down some 400 trees, including 250 magnolias in South L.A. and 100 pine and ficus trees in Inglewood, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Officials say the route — along Manchester Boulevard, Crenshaw Drive, Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard en route to Exhibition Park — was the only way to get the shuttle to the center. Other streets aren’t wide enough, or are encumbered with immovable obstructions.

(PHOTOS: The Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Launch)

The California Science Center has promised to replace the felled trees with twice as many new ones and claims it will spend about $500,000 improving the neighborhoods where the trees are cut down. But residents are objecting that it isn’t the number of trees that’s the issue but their size and maturity.

“They are cutting down these really big, majestic trees,” Leimert Park resident Lark Galloway-Gilliam told the Times. “It will be beyond my lifetime before they will be tall like this again.” Claudine Jasmin of South Los Angeles, who says she’s a big fan of the Science Center, still doesn’t think the addition of the shuttle is worth tearing up her neighborhood’s trees. “My parents have lived in this neighborhood since before I was born, and we have these big pine trees on our street, and I’m sure it took forever for them to grow,” she told ABC News.  “It would be really, really horrendous to see all these years of a tree’s growth completely diminished for one parade.”

Endeavor is scheduled to arrive at LAX on Sept. 20 on the back of a Boeing 747 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and will be moved to the California Science Center on Oct 12. According to the L.A. Times, tree replanting is expected to begin a few weeks later.

PHOTOS: NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes its Final Landing